More Bounce to the Ounce

November 21, 2012
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By FRANCIS PREVE

USING SIDECHAINED COMPRESSION IS A TIME-HONORED METHOD FOR ADDING “BOUNCE” to bass lines, pads, and even groups of synths. The technique is simple: Add a compressor to an instrument track, set its sidechain parameters to key off of the kick drum channel, then tinker with the threshold, ratio, attack, and release until you get the desired pumping effect. While this method is extremely precise, there’s an alternative approach that delivers a similar bounce with a lot less effort. Most DAWs include tempo-synced auto-panning and/or tremolo effects—and therein lies the secret to giving your synths that wiggle without resorting to compression. Here’s how to do it with Ableton Live’s Auto Pan effect.

Step 1Step 1.
Select a track to process. The two most obvious choices are bass and sustaining pad sounds, so we’ll start with a pad. Apply the Auto Pan to the pad channel and—this is key—convert it to a mono tremolo effect by setting the Phase parameter to zero.

 

 

 

Step 2.
Next, sync the rate to your tempo to quarter-notes so that the pumping aligns with your four-on-the-floor kick. Adjust the depth of the effect to taste and you’ll hear the synth start to breathe in time with the kick.

Step 3Step 3.
Since groove is everything, there are a lot of subtle variations to be explored. Using the Off set of the Auto Pan, you can shift the pumping ahead of or behind the beat to give it more drive (ahead) or a funkier feel (behind). Since we’re using a sine wave, a 90-degree off set should be your starting point. From there, shift it to 75 degrees and listen to how the groove changes. Then, try a more extreme 130-degree off set (shown here) and hear the difference.

 

 

 

 

Step 4Step 4.
For a more extreme effect still, you can then adjust the Auto Pan’s Shape parameter, which will square off the edges. This imparts a more chopped, gated character to the pumping. Extreme amounts will cause the synth to pulse, which can be another cool effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5Step 5.
If that still isn’t precise enough for you, head over to XFer Records’ website and pick up a copy of Steve Duda’s LFO Tool. For 50 bucks, you can have the same detailed control over your dynamics that Deadmau5 relies on for his tracks.

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